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“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

299 pages, Hardcover

First published September 16, 2014

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About the author

William Ritter

29 books1,710 followers
WILLIAM RITTER is an Oregon educator and author of the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark.

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5 stars
7,263 (24%)
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,087 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
September 9, 2014
Genre-defying historical paranormal mystery with a touch of humour, anyone?

“What is it?” My question came as a whisper, my eyes straining to see the invisible.
Jackaby’s voice was softer still: “Death.”

I said in a status update that this book is basically BBC Sherlock with a paranormal twist and now, having finished the book, I stand by that description entirely. This book is so many things and all of them are good. It has all the atmosphere of a creepy Victorian mystery, all the humourous banter of BBC Sherlock; it has complex characters and wonderful writing. And most of all: it is just so damn charming.

This book has charisma. The protagonist and narrator - Abigail Rook - is a delightful heroine who is both a "strong woman" and a multilayered and extremely lovable individual, brimming with personality. She is that likable balance somewhere between totally badass and endearingly klutzy. The story begins where a failed attempt to do her own thing against her parents wishes leaves her too ashamed to return home, so she instead jumps aboard a ship bound for New England and unwittingly triggers an adventure she never bargained for.

"All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain."

Enter Mr Jackaby. Oh wow, how could I not love him? Jackaby is a clever, astute and eccentric detective of the paranormal. He's entirely odd, presented as lanky with unruly hair, never portrayed as a potential love interest. But damn if I don't have a giant crush on him. Like a Benedict Cumberbatch kind of crush that you kind of have to watch Sherlock to understand.

When this book wasn't busy leading me around a spooky paranormal mystery, it was instead busy making me laugh. It's the charm of the characters and the chemistry between Jackaby and Abigail that makes this novel work so well. The dialogue between them had me giggling to myself so many times.

“That reminds me,” he said, pausing. “There’s a jar in my office marked ‘Bail.’ If you don’t hear from me by tonight, just bring it down to the Mason street Station, would you? I’m usually in the first or second cell.”

And I'm sorry to you lovely Belgians out there (I have visited and very much enjoyed Belgium) but this was funny:

It wasn’t that I did not believe in ghosts; it was that I believed in them in the same noncommittal way that I believed in giant squids or lucky coins or Belgium. They were things that probably existed, but I had never had any occasion to really care one way or another.

I honestly LOVED it. Even though I don't think the mystery is too difficult to work out, it has multiple layers so there's enough twists and excitement to make the ride enjoyable in itself - which, for me, is what makes a good mystery anyway. And it's funny. And the paranormal mythology was compelling and used in ways I haven't read about before. I only hope this is the start of a series and not a one-off; the mystery is tied up neatly at the end of this book - which I like - but it's definitely been left open for potential future stories. I can't wait!

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,613 followers
April 4, 2018

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List


I love Jackaby and I think Sherlock would approve of him too and find him rather funny, which he is I might add.

Okay, like I said, I love Jackaby and I love Miss Abigail Rook! They are a perfect match as you get to read about them in the book, but the first meeting was what I found rather comical or disturbing - depending on how you look at it :-)

It was the eyes, I think, that startled me the most, opened wide and staring with intense inquisition. It was the eyes-and the fact that he stood not half a pace from my stool, leaning ever so slightly in, so that our noses nearly bumped when I turned to face him.

there is some stuff in between all of that and then:

"Hello?" I managed to say, when I had regained balance atop my stool. "Can I help-?"
"You're recently from the Ukraine." It was not a question. His voice was calm and even, but something more...amused? He continued, his gray eyes dancing as though exploring each thought several seconds before his mouth could voice it. "You've traveled by way of Germany, and then a great distance in a sizable ship...made largely of iron, I'd wager."

This was Miss Rook's first encounter with Jackaby when she came ashore. She had been traveling around trying to get in on any archaeological digs that she could. She wanted to be like her father but her parents wanted her off at university and to find a good husband. Um, no. So, she ran away. Now she is in America looking for any kind of work that she could get until she decided what to do next.

Miss Rook goes all around town trying to find a job, but to no avail. One person told her to go over to the post office because they need help a lot of the time. Nothing there either... but wait... there are some bulletins put up on a board and there is one she is interested in. <--- We all know where this is headed right? The man himself, Jackaby, needs an assistant.

Not long after Miss Rook is trying to talk Jackaby into giving her a chance they are rushed out to check out a murder scene. One they shouldn't be on of course. You know, the cops hate having him around unless they ask for him.

Jackaby finds something fishy at the crime scene.. he detects something supernatural is the culprit! How totally awesome to have this type of supernatural mixed in with a Sherlock background. Once again, Brilliant I say!

There are a lot of comical parts in the book that I just loved. There is a part where they are at the crime scene investigating in another part of the building and Jackaby makes the mistake of telling a woman she is not special......... let that thought linger......

Jackaby turned at last. "Madam, I assure you, I meant only that you are not special."
I cupped a palm over my face.
The woman reddened several shades. Jackaby smiled at her in what I'm certain he felt was a reassuring and pleasant manner following a reasonable explanation. He seemed prepared to let the whole thing wash away as a friendly misunderstanding. What he was not prepared for, apparently, was to be socked in the face.
It was not a ladylike swat or symbolic gesture. The force of it actually spun the detective halfway around, and his trip to the ground was interrupted only briefly by the wall catching him on the ear on the way down.

So Jackaby and Miss Rook are on the case to find out what this being is that has started killing in a most horrific way. We get to meet some really cool creatures in the book... well not the evil one, but I digress.

Jackaby lives in a big ole place and he has some other things that live there with him. This would be two of my other favorite characters in the book, Jenny (the ghost) and Douglas ( the duck) <--- there is as story there but I will leave it to you to figure out.


Jenny the ghost, decides since it's her house/or was, that she wants Miss Rook to move in and Jackaby actually feels the same way. But before all of this was mentioned to Jackaby, Jenny took it upon herself to start moving things around in the attic so Miss Rook would have somewhere to sleep. And you know with all of those noises, Jackaby and Miss Rook thought someone had broke in which made for another little comic bit.

And with that it was settled. Jenny clapped her hands together and smiled brightly, and Jackaby turned to look at me. "What in heaven's name are you doing with my copy of Historia Lycanthropis?"
"I-what?" I answered eloquently.
"That book. What on earth are you doing with it?"
"Well, you had a stick."
His eyebrows furrowed. "This is a shillelagh. It was cut from Irish blackthorn by a leprechaun craftsman, cured in the furnace of Gofannon, and imbued with supernatural powers of protection. That"-he gestured to the book-"is a book."
"It's heavy, though. A leprechaun? Like, the tiny fellows who keep pots of gold at the ends of rainbows?"
"Don't be asinine. I mean a real leprechaun. That volume is a sixteenth-century original printing. I hope very much that you didn't intend to use it as a projectile."

I totally fell in love with this book. The characters. The monsters they met, which were some very nice ones by the way. The banter and wit. I just loved the book okay! It has an awesome cover too :-)

I think anyone that loves Sherlock, mysteries, the supernatural and snark, will love this book!
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews168k followers
March 1, 2015
This was a fun read, but it was nothing more than that! If you're looking for something light and fun then I would give this a go, but if you're looking for something that will blow your mind, I wouldn't pick this up. I had a few issues with the writing, as I picked up on several repetitive pieces of dialogue, that drove me insane! I also wasn't a massive fan of Jackaby, I found him to be a bit obnoxious. For the most part though, I enjoyed this book! I'll definitely be checking out the sequel. :)
Profile Image for Danielle.
805 reviews400 followers
August 24, 2020
This was a very quick read for me. I listened to the audiobook pretty much all day, as I was doing all the housework. 🧽🧺🧹It’s a Sherlock Holmes type vibe with paranormal aspects. It was entertaining enough. Not a series where I’m hankering to read the next one though. 🤷🏼‍♀️
Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,858 followers
October 8, 2021
The short version: Jackaby is a new-adult, 1892 version of Elementary with a detective that can see the ghosties and beasties of the supernatural world. Vaguely feminist, it's sure to please most who enjoy the genre. I, who does not seek the genre out, still enjoyed it.

The long version: Ever since Jo from Little Women, I've had a fondness for the plucky heroine. Miss Abigail Rook delivers. Born into an educated and well-to-do family, she took her college money and joined a paleontology dig while her parents were away traveling. When that didn't pan out, she (albeit accidentally) went to the States. Making the best of her adventure, she looks for work and ends up working as Jackaby's assistant. Their first case is a brutally murdered journalist, and the banshee neighbor's wails hint that someone else will soon follow.

At the risk of damning it with faint praise, this stood out for being enjoyable and inoffensive. There are no shortage of fantasy type books in this genre and age-range, but by staying with Abigail's first-person point-of-view, the narrative is more coherent. Like the show Elementary, Jackaby is a less socially-competent Sherlock, while Abigail proves more adept at mundane interactions.

“‘I’ve got it,’ I announced. ‘You’re a detective, aren’t you?’ The man’s eyes stopped darting and locked with mine again. I knew I was onto him this time. ‘Yes, you’re like whtshisname, aren’t you? The one who consults for Scotland Yard in those stories, right? So what was it? Let me guess, you smelled salt water on my coat, and I’ve got some peculiar shade of clay caked on my dress or something like that?”

There's mild humor throughout, both situational (a frog that absolutely does not like being stared at) and verbal:
"'We are not with the police department,' said Jackaby. He pulled out a thin leather satchel and laid it on the table.
'Well,' said Charlie, 'I am.'
'We are not with the police department, except for those of us who are,' Jackaby revised."

It's quite possible that readers of historical fiction may find it full of inaccuracies for 1892 in speech and behavior. I enjoyed it, and as I dislike the historical genre as a rule, my assumption is that it probably doesn't meet those standards. Fine by me. There is a formality to her internal voice that differentiates it pleasantly from a more modern UF.

The dual plots of the mystery and Abagail's adjustment her new employment are the primary focus of the story, and there isn't much that detracts. They move quickly, although some of the interludes in Jackaby's odd townhouse slow down and allow for more of the personal development angle.

Overall, I'd say this was a nice orange sherbet of a read, a pleasant palate-cleanser. I'll pick up the second and see if it continues.

Three and a half stars, rounding down because it just doesn't stack up against my normal four-star reads.
Profile Image for Adina.
827 reviews3,228 followers
September 21, 2018
This year I tried to clear my bookshelves (virtual and physical) a bit with feeble to moderate success. One of the directions I wanted to take is to read as much as I could from the books I owned and added to my TBR a long time ago (2014). I did not manage to do that too well but at least this is one of them.

I read this at the right time, exactly when I needed something light, short that I could finish in 1-2 days, with a bit of magic and mystery. It delivered on all these, I enjoyed while it lasted but I doubt I will read the follow-up. I did not feel it was anything special and I did not warm towards the characters. It wants to be a YA Sherlock Holmes with a magic twist set in the US but it lacks the smartness.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,558 reviews2,312 followers
January 4, 2023
Love this series! This is a re-read!

By William Ritter
Abigail is a gal that wants more out of life than sitting around, she wants adventure like her father always had. But in 1892 women were still not treated equal. So she took her tuition money and stole away from her parents and traveled a bit but now broke, she finds herself in need of a meal and a job. She meets an odd fellow that takes her in as an assistant after a very unique and bizarre way to get an interview!
He lets her board there too! What she didn't know was the very peculiar roommates that was already there! This book is great fun even for the second time! I have read the whole series before but it's been awhile and the author has a new book coming out in the series so I want to refresh my memory! Can't wait!
Profile Image for Ben Alderson.
Author 18 books13.3k followers
February 7, 2017
Average read.
I think the story is super interesting, may give the sequels a go.
But I just found the pacing really really fast!
The book is based over 48 hours mainly and it was sooooooo jam packed!

Still good though!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,219 reviews2,050 followers
January 14, 2020
It probably says this in every review of this book but I find I have to say it myself. Jackaby is like Sherlock Holmes dealing in the paranormal world. He works from tiny, tiny clues but the murders he consults on involve werewolves and banshees and other things I have never heard of. It is all very entertaining!

I enjoyed the character of Jackaby, especially the humour caused by the way he acts and the things he says. Abigail Rook, his newly appointed assistant is an interesting character too. She is obviously a very strong willed person since she remains in her position even when she discovers that the previous assistant was turned into a duck. She also makes friends with the resident ghost.

There is a mystery to solve, quite a bit of action and a lot of humour. I enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews986 followers
September 5, 2016
“This world is full of dragon-slayers. What we need are a few more people who aren't too proud to listen to a few fish.”

“He's quite mad, you know. But adventure can be very appealing.”

There's something special about this book: it's well-written; has nice, reliable characters; touches the topic of women's position in late 19th century society; has an intriguing addition of supernatural element, and, of course, let's not forget about the fact that it's a Sherlock Holmes retelling!

When I started this book, I had almost zero doubts this book will catch my attention and keep it till the last page (and there's only 299 pages!). All the ingredients above guaranteed an easy, funny read to me. Alas, I can't say I was 100% satisfied.

Yes, there was humor:.

“Well, if we didn’t sail together, how did you ever—ah, you must have snuck a peek at my luggage labels.” I tried to remain casual, but leaned away as the man drew closer still, inspecting me. The oak countertop dug into my back uncomfortably. He smelled faintly of cloves and cinnamon.
“I did nothing of the sort. That would be an impolite invasion of privacy,” the man stated flatly as he picked a bit of lint from my sleeve, tasted it, and tucked it somewhere inside his baggy coat.

Yes, women's topic was quite developed:
“I prefer to look after myself, ma’am, but thank you. I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but some of us have more pressing matters to attend to than practicing our curtsies and turning foolishly sized bonnets into topiaries.”

Yes, the narrator was easy to connect with:
“A young woman across the dock pulled her winter coat tightly around herself and ducked her chin down as the crowd of sailors passed. Her shoulders might have shaken, just a little, but she kept to her path without letting the men's boisterous laughter keep her from her course. In her I saw myself, a fellow lost girl, headstrong and headed anywhere but home.”

Yes, Jackaby, in whose honor this book is named, was a great believable prototype of Sherlock Holmes:
“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist.” Jackaby turned on the landing and faced me. “I am a man of reason and science. I believe what I can see or prove, and what I can see is often difficult for others to grasp. I have a gift that is, as far as I have found, unique to me. It allows me to see truth where others see the illusion—and there are many illusions, so many masks and facades. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.

Yes, the supernatural aspect was great and managed to surprise me more than once:
“Monsters are easy, Miss Rook. They’re monsters. But a monster in a suit? That’s basically just a wicked man, and a wicked man is a more dangerous thing by far.”

But, all in all, this book lacked depth, in my opinion. The story, indeed, touches all the topics above, but they seem superficial. We don't have enough pages to develop deep thoughts: we only briefly underlined issues and let them be, and, maybe, some of them will make its way into our minds and expand the topic. But what I really wanted is for that book itself to expand them, to make me think there's more to the story than a light funny read. I wanted more darkness, too. It seemed like the whole story took place in one day: everything happened too quickly. And, mind you, I've been reading this book for almost 15 days (!) and still I had that impression of urgency and lack of thoughtfulness. I still would highly recommend this book to everyone, especially to Sherlock Holmes's fans, but I am not sure I'll be picking the sequel any time soon.

Simply put: it was nice to meet you, Mr. Jackaby, but I expected more from you.

Profile Image for Amelia.
173 reviews49 followers
June 16, 2018
This book was so enjoyable to read!

I love Jackaby as a character, he reminds me so much of Sherlock but then he is different in his own way. Some of the things Jackaby would say would make me laugh, he definitely is such an interesting character.

On the note of characters, all the characters, not just Jackaby, are great in their own way. As you read you grow to love all of them.

I highly recommend this book if you love historical fiction, mystery, the supernatural and Sherlock Holmes.
Profile Image for Eliza.
594 reviews1,374 followers
February 1, 2019
1.5 / 5 ~

First DNF/skimmed book of 2019. I hate skimming, but this one was just so boring. I didn’t care for the investigations, the "funny" banter, and I especially didn’t like how the book just jumps into everything from page one; it made the characters feel bland and unbelievable. It’s upsetting because I think the cover is gorgeous. But I guess that goes to show that even books can be beautiful on the outside and not-so-good on the inside.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,938 reviews785 followers
March 6, 2016
I would probably have given this book a solid five-star review if the mystery had been better. But I figured out the bad guy very early on and then I just waited for everyone to catch on. But, despite that I really, really enjoyed this book.

William Ritter has created a superb paranormal world with wonderful characters. Is the mix of ordinarily and paranormal that makes the book so good to read. Most of the people don't know that there are banshees and werewolves, troll and goblins around them and that makes Jackaby such a great and eccentric character because he sees the "other world".

Besides the wonderful Jackaby we also Abigail Rook; an ordinary girl that happens to be locking for a job and find the one job perfect suited for someone looking for adventures. As an assistant to investigator Jackaby.

This is probably the first YA I have read in a long time that I have enjoyed really much!
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
August 19, 2021
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4!

Well there were Sherlockian vibes aplenty in this fun YA paranormal mystery.

I enjoyed that it was narrated from Abigail's point of view as looking at Jackaby from her perspective helped to develop our view of him as slightly quirky and eccentric. There was a good build up of tension as our duo puzzle their way through the crime scenes. I will continue on with the series in the future. A great addition to the library.
Profile Image for ✦BookishlyRichie✦.
639 reviews1,038 followers
November 16, 2016


5 STARS!!!

"Sherlock Holmes meets The Spiderwick Chronicles" that's what comes to mind after reading this book. I loved it. I loved how fantastical and dark and eerie this was and I'm excited to check out the rest of the books in the series. Jackaby was a my favorite character of course. He was odd, stubborn, insane at times, but fantastic as well. I really enjoyed Abigail's POV and thought she was an amazing heroine too, unlike a lot of female protagonists in YA who always feel the need to be saved or let a man do their job or make them feel small. Abigail was a boss.

This is considered YA and I think because the main characters are older is the only reason why. Make Jackaby 14 and Abigail 13 and this would be a perfect Middle-Grade book as well. There is nothing in this book that is too much or too dark or explicit for Middle-Grade readers. That is probably another reason why I liked it so much. I also liked it because there was no romance between Abigail and Jackaby and that was one of the best things about this book. Yes, there was a hint of romance with another character but not between the main characters which I enjoyed immensely. I wish more YA books did this, maybe I'd enjoy the genre more.

Being a huge fan of The Spiderwick Chronicles and supernatural folklore, I was really excited to see it blended into a Victorian era mystery. That was awesome. I knew quite a few of the creatures that Jackaby described at times and really liked the magical side to this story.

I also want to mention that this book got me! I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't deduce who the killer was until it was revealed and then I went ah!!! I should've been able to get that. haha

But this was a very good time. It was thrilling, fantastical, spooky, and pretty funny at times. Again I look forward to Jackaby and Abigail's further adventures and and I'm pretty sure I'd like to own this series now for my bookshelf and that is saying a lot. - Richard
Profile Image for Debby.
583 reviews540 followers
April 17, 2021
2 stars

I start this review with a very heavy heart. No one is more upset than I am about this dismal rating. Though I would never say this book is bad or the worst, I had fully expected to absolutely adore it and be head over heels for it. I'm immensely disappointed, because this book was just average at best and a cheap knockoff at worst.

To be fair: Jackaby is upfront about what it is - Sherlock meets Doctor Who. That blurb is what caught my attention and the reason why I picked it up, because as my friends probably know, I am a HUGE fan of both series. Both I have watched multiple times. Both are in my top 5 TV series of all time. If this book is like THAT, it's going to be absolutely perfect for me, right? Wrong. That premise is actually the book's downfall for me.

My first annoyance that really kept me from becoming immersed in this book was the character, Jackaby, himself. He really is a mash up of Sherlock and the Doctor. But while earlier I may have thought that the characters are rather similar, when meeting Jackaby, I finally understood just how different they are. Sherlock is sullen, apathetic, and a sociopath lacking a filter, interested in the mysteries themselves and not so much the people. The Doctor is more open-minded and, in fact, is fascinated and delighted by the human race. These are character traits which do not go together. Yet, Ritter attempts to make Jackaby both Sherlock and the Doctor. One minute he'll be talking about how stupid humans are. The next moment, he'll be fascinated about something Abigail does or fiercely protective of humans. Guys. You can't really have it both ways. This odd mash up didn't work for me at all. I couldn't get used to his character - he was a clone of Sherlock one moment, and a clone of the Doctor the next. He almost seemed schizophrenic - there was no cohesion. It felt like I was reading fanfiction.

This fanfiction-vibe also carried over into the storytelling. Abigail just arrives in New Fiddleham, searches for work, and becomes Watson Clara Jacakby's assistant. I felt like she was way too accepting of the supernatural elements that Jackaby could supposedly see while no one else could. She hardly even doubts him at all and is just like, "WHEE, ADVENTURE, OH BOY." I couldn't connect with her character either. She's kind of Mary Sue-ish: when on cases she suddenly has bursts of being SUPER OBSERVANT, to a level that is absolutely not normal... and other than that her personality is rather nondescript. She's more or less just there to serve as the narrator and detail Jackaby's brilliance, letting the readers insert themselves into the story. Hmm, this kind of sidelining of female supporting characters feels a bit familiar too.

They quickly get mixed up in a case of a supernatural serial killer which really is the mystery solving of Sherlock combined with the strange creatures that only the Doctor Jackaby understands and can hunt down. But the plot failed to ever really surprise me. I mean, it held together as a whole: the paranormal killings piqued my curiosity, there were clues that led to reveals, which kept me reading, and then... mysetery solved. But overall it felt like it was trying to hard to be exactly what this mash up implied, and thus failed to retain any sense of originality at all.

In a certain scene, Jackaby even says he would call "shenanigans" if something happened. I mean really.

I suppose the addition of fairy lore and paranormal creatures was a tiny bit cool, or entertaining at least. The trolls, redcaps, banshees, ghosts, etc... I tried to get sucked into the world, but with all the other comparisons to Doctor Who I just felt like they were a replacement for the various aliens. Not the best replacement either, because the fairy lore we got was basic at best. And Jackaby's house with its dangerous and cluttered rooms was just the TARDIS. And the household ghost who cares for Clara Abigail, keeps the Doctor Jackaby in check, and does some housekeeping is even called JENNY. I MEAN COME ON.

Overall, it all just feels a bit underdeveloped. Like, it could have been so much more. And with the story being just under 300 pages, there's just no room to make it come to life and be unique. I mean, both Doctor Who and Sherlock are masterful creations in their own rights, but what keeps me fully engaged, entertained, and impressed is the level of emotions they evoke with their brilliant plot twists and surprises. Not to mention the characters and their sparkling personalities. Jackaby had none of that. I figured out the killer pretty early on, and that was that. It never got me to care.

Summing Up:

I can't say they didn't warn me. If you want a book that is a carbon copy mash up of Doctor Who plus Sherlock, definitely get Jackaby. But if you want originality... and if the constant references would annoy you, stay away. I'm sad Jackaby didn't try at all to take this idea and then do something NEW with it. I mean, take a female supersleuth/paranormal wisewoman. Or give them a new kind of personality. Or really develop the paranormal side, so the world is much more of a fantasy.

I didn't expect that a book that promised (and to an extent delivered) a combination of two of my favorite things in the world would be such a failure to me. When I managed to keep my rage at the lack of originality at bay, I was mostly just bored by its all around averageness.

GIF it to me straight!

But also...

I am so sad right now.

Recommended To:

I'd like to see the opinion of someone who has never watched Doctor Who or Sherlock actually. I think this book would have better luck with them.

*An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contents of my review.
Profile Image for TL .
1,818 reviews35 followers
September 19, 2014
My personal vision of Jackaby and Abigail:

My pick for Jackaby is probly predictable but oh well haha. We can agree to disagaree ;-).

On to the review:

It's easy to compare this to Sherlock and Jackaby/Abigail to Sherlock/John... there are some similarities in character but for me, Jackaby was a magical/fun adventure with interesting characters all around.

Abigail is thrown into the strange of Jackaby purely by chance. She doesn't know fully what she's getting into but she's keen for adventure.

Jackaby, Abigail, Marlowe and the others all play well off each other... the side characters such as Hatun, Jenny, Mr. Henderson, Charlie, Etc. each have a place/role in the story, though you may not know exactly what at the time.

Trying to keep up with Jackaby was fruitless, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. (Side note: I wonder Sherlock would've thought of this fellow?)

What was going on with Charlie, my antennae picked up in one particular scene... the one time I got the same answer as Jackaby haha, even though I got there slower.

Jackaby as a 'seer' was interesting, and his house is labyrinth of unusual and sometimes dangerous things... Can I live there'? :) The third floor was probably my favorite... and a certain... frog ;-)

The villain I did not expect to be who it was, Abigail and I put it together at the same time. Well done twist in my opinion.

I got the 'feel' of the town in this... it felt like I was plopped right in New Fiddleham. Gritty, dark, ordinary, supernatural... all fit together :).

The writing in this book = <3 ! Don't know how else to put it, the pages fly by without you realizing it.

Loved the humor in this book, some of these quotes I would love to frame:

""And so you shall," Jackaby called over his shoulder. "Expertly, I imagine, and to the letter of the instruction. However, I don't recall Marlowe giving any specific directions about time, nor about the route we take, so let's have a quick chat with someone odd, first, shall we? I do love odd. Ah, here we are!""
"I hate when you spend the night," grumbled the clerk.
"I only barely got finished cataloguing this stuff. Always takes me forever just to find all the damn pockets.""

""Don't feel bad," I offered. "I met him face-to-face, and I missed it too."

"Yes, but no one expected you to be clever, Miss Rook."

"Thanks for that," I said.
"We got him in the end, at least. That's something. "

""Jenny! Have you seen that saucepan? The one from that set your grandmother left you? "

"You mean the one you riddled with buckshot dents last month?" came the spirit's muffled reply. "Or the one you melted last summer with that alchemy nonsense? "

"The first one! ""

In closing with this from the book:

"The man had no portraits or photographs, but he had slowly surrounded himself with mementos of a fantastic past. Each little item, by the sheer nature of its being, told a story. Looking around was a little like being back on the dig, or like deciphering an ancient text, and I wondered what stories they would tell me if I only knew how to read them."

I agree, I can't wait to find out what's next in store for these two :) Maybe Mr. Ritter will write about some of Jackaby's past cases as well? *hint hint*

Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,036 followers
May 2, 2015
I still stand by my opinion that the book's synopsis being called Doctor Who meets Sherlock seems like such an obvious way of the publisher wanting to make this book sound like a fangirl's wet dream. I still don't understand the obsession of YA publishers these days and always pinning every book Something meets Some Other Thing, but oh well. Guess it puts food on the table.

Regardless, I really enjoyed this! It wasn't at all what I expected. I expected for the main character to have some kind of romance with Jackaby, and the supernatural aspect would probably just be ghosts or spirits or whatever, but man was I wrong. Dead wrong. (Hurr durr. See what I did there? Cuz it's a murder mystery? No? Yeah, okay.) The fact that it caught me by surprise made it even better.

Since I never watched Doctor Who or Sherlock myself, (easy with the pitchforks, ladies) I can't really say if the book really did have elements of those shows, but I was definitely happy with what I got. If you're looking for something magical, thrilling but also fun and cheeky, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Liz.
250 reviews1,976 followers
March 24, 2016
Pretty dang solid book, y'all. The character of Jackaby is definitely inspired by Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock, but has an Eleventh Doctor childlike quality to him. I don't know how realistic Abigail's character is... I mean, going to a different country by herself in those days? With parents who seem pretty fancy pants? Hmmm... But I did like her stance on how she chose to work with Jackaby and her choices henceforth. The paranormal and fantasy aspects were pretty good. I was glad to see a newer piece of media (aside from Teen Wolf) talking about banshees. The lore surrounding the paranormal creatures was well explained without being info-dump-y.
Profile Image for aileen | ✾.
324 reviews200 followers
October 5, 2021
“Monsters are easy, Miss Rook. They're monsters. But a monster in a suit? That's basically just a wicked man, and a wicked man is a more dangerous thing by far.”

I honestly don't understand why this book is so underrated. It's got monsters, ghosts, ducks that were once men, supernatural beings, a realistic romance, and an even crazier, although a very adorable version of Sherlock Holmes.

World, you need to read this.
Profile Image for Constantine.
831 reviews131 followers
January 16, 2023
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Young Adult + Historical + Fantasy + Mystery

"Jackaby" is a young adult fantasy story that follows a young woman named Abigail Rook, who moves to New England to become an assistant to a detective named R.F. Jackaby. The detective has the ability to detect supernatural creatures, and he is tasked with solving a string of unusual and mysterious cases of criminal activity. During the course of her time spent assisting Jackaby with his research, Abigail gains knowledge of the occult and becomes embroiled in a dangerous journey involving monsters, ghosts, and other supernatural entities.

Throughout the entire novel, Abigail and Jackaby investigate a murder case, and they come to the conclusion that a supernatural entity was responsible for the crime, and that the creature is still at large. As the investigation goes on, Abigail and Jackaby get into more dangerous situations as they get closer to the truth and have to figure out where good and evil meet.

The characters in "Jackaby" were okay, but the story itself didn't capture my interest as much as I wished it would. R.F. Jackaby, the detective who can see supernatural beings, and his assistant, Abigail Rook, have distinct personalities, and their interactions added a dynamic to the book. But the murder case and the strange things that happened as they looked into it didn't keep me that entertained. The fantasy and mystery elements didn’t feel intriguing enough to hold my attention. I found myself struggling to stay invested in the plot and found it a little bit predictable. Overall, while the characters were well-developed and had their moments, the story itself fell short for me.

This is the first book in the Jackaby series. Each book in the Jackaby series has its own story. The series includes a total of four books. I bought these books about six years ago when one of the YouTubers praised the series a lot. The covers of these books are stunning. However, if I didn’t own the whole series, I would’ve stopped here. But since I have them all, I will continue reading. This will be like a reminder for me to never buy all the books in a series without trying the first book first. Fortunately, I have stopped doing so, but I think I should still suffer the consequences of my past mistakes :)
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
926 reviews794 followers
March 19, 2021
3.5 stars!

I wish I'd found this earlier! What a mash-up of supernatural historical fiction, Sherlockian detective stories, and fast-paced YA. This was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to reading the sequels.

Plot/Pacing: ★★★
Dialogue and humor: ★★★★ 1/2, I literally laughed out LOUD
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2

I think William Ritter deserves a spot on the auto-read list for me—this is the third book of his that I've loved reading. (Check out his middle grade series The Oddmire if you like goblins and more humor, it's the best.)

Anyways, so as you can probably tell from my push for The Oddmire above, I'm coming to Jackaby from Ritter's later works. This one seems to have a wider, YA audience and many have made comparisons to Stalking Jack the Ripper and other popular and beloved favorites.

While kinda sorta see the comparisons, I think Jackaby stands apart in the ways that count. (Definitely don't come here with the expectation of another version of Stalking Jack the Ripper. While it feels like a good companion series, they have very little in common in both tone and scope.) We've got an American historical setting, magical creatures hiding in plain sight, a private detective who's more of a scatter-brained Seer than a problem solver, and a Watson-esque POV in our main character. From all of that, I was hooked and guaranteed for a good time.

And it was, in fact, a good time. (That feels anti-climactic, but it's accurate? Let's go with it.)

I think Jackaby suffers a bit from its placement as a series starter. It's clear that the author has big plans for the characters and the magical elements in the world building, but he didn't have time to flesh it out in depth for this first entry. Jackaby is a fun, extremely fast-paced romp through one historical murder mystery with a fantastical edge—and given the murder plot, we only had time to cover that and so parts of of the character development and world felt unfinished. I wish we'd slowed down a bit and had some more pages....

Anyway, a good start to a promising and fun series. On to the next one!

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Profile Image for Stephanie.
293 reviews20 followers
May 1, 2017
Two things I love: Sherlock Holmes and Fantastic beasts.
So you can bet your bottom dollar that this book is right up my alley. I love that Abigail isn't a weakling, that she sticks up for herself and isn't afraid to get dirty. Jackaby is your typical Sherlock-type minus the drug problem and add in the ability to see fantastic beasties.

Basically - I really enjoyed this and once my book buying ban is over I will be purchasing the rest of this series.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,879 reviews474 followers
May 30, 2020
1892. Abigail Rook has made a colossal mistake. She wanted some adventure....to not be left behind because she is a woman. Her parents want her to get educated, but then they expect her to get married, have kids, do what women do. But that isn't what she wants. She wants to discover interesting and important things....to have some adventure....to make her own life. This feeling led her to take her school tuition money and run off to a dinosaur dig site. Then the funding went....her job went.....and she was cut loose. She doesn't want to return home.....so she has to find a job. That's when she meets Jackaby. She gets her adventure.....awesomely spooky, weird, strange adventure!

This book is just....FUN. Jackaby is kooky. Abigail is determined and skeptical. It's like Spooky Mulder and Skully 1892 style. The mix of humor and supernatural investigation kept me binge listening to the audio book....I wanted to know what happened next!

There are four books and one short story in the Jackaby series. I'm definitely going to read the rest of this series. I have to know what trouble they get into next!

This series is geared towards YA readers, but enjoyable for adults as well. Nothing age inappropriate for teenagers. I listened to the audio format (Highbridge). At 7.5 hours, it's an easy listening length and is narrated by Nicola Barber. Barber gives a good performance. Very entertaining listening experience.

On to book 2 -- Beastly Bones!
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,165 followers
January 19, 2015
Rating: 2 Stars/DNF

I nearly made it to the half-way point of Jackaby before admitting that I didn't know the contents of the last six chapters I had read and, really, should just give up. With such a captivating cover and compelling plot line, you'd think Jackaby would enchant me; hook, line, and sinker. Unfortunately, however, I found this novel to be just a tad too--dare I say it?--unoriginal. Ritter's concept of creating a character like Jackaby, a detective who could see the supernatural realm and used those skills to solve crime, is nothing short of brilliant. I've heard this be described as a cross between the two hit BBC shows, "Sherlock" and "Doctor Who", and as a fan of both, I have to admit it's an apt comparison.

However, I didn't much enjoy the narrative perspective this novel is told from. Abigail Rook, a young woman seeking employment, decides to become the assistant Jackaby needs in his work and though her voice is affable and perceptive, detailing the oddities that set Jackaby apart from every other human, it lacked emotion. Ultimately, I just didn't feel for Abigail or grow to know her intimately, as a character, despite the fact that it was she who narrated the tale. Although I found Jackaby to be fascinating and thought that many of the secondary characters introduced were charming, there was something a little too rote-like about the manner in which information was departed through this novel that left me unable to connect with the story line.

Whatever it is that didn't allow Jackaby to join my favorites shelf, I am the most sorry for it. I wanted to love this novel, desperately, and I am distinctly in the minority in my opinion of the characterization and prose. As such, I recommend that readers give this one a try for themselves. If you wind up liking it even a fraction more than I do by the half-way point, chances are, you're going to love this. I'll just waddle into my corner labeled "Black Sheep" now, shall I?
Profile Image for starryeyedjen.
1,640 reviews1,232 followers
March 16, 2015
An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based upon a purchased copy of the audiobook version.

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.

I put off reviewing this book, well, because I'm lazy. And honestly, that summary does a great job of telling you what you're going to get with Jackaby. When it says Doctor Who meets Sherlock, it means it. You've got the paranormal aspects of Doctor Who set as the backdrop for a murder mystery the likes of which Sherlock would love to get his hands on.

Just like the two BBC shows that seem to be at least partly the inspiration for Jackaby, this novel includes a healthy dose of humor to the story to lessen the effects of the grisly tale held within its pages. I love a great mystery novel, but it can't always be murder and mayhem, especially when there's little to no romance to be had to distract you from the gruesomeness.

Much like Sherlock, Jackaby is the type of character to find romance a very unnecessary diversion from the matter at hand…even a complication. So, the romance is left to young Abigail, who seems to have struck the fancy of Detective Cane. Though the thought has been planted, it's unlikely we'll see any real swoons until later in the series. And I applaud that…this isn't really the type of mystery novel to really call for a love story.

Ritter has created such a rich world in Jackaby that I found myself immediately immersed in it, as if I, too, were walking the streets of New England, trying to crack the case. Set near the turn of the century, the depiction of New Fiddleham and what lurked there was elaborate and breath-taking. The story was unique in its execution, and I found myself at the end of the story before I knew what had happened.

Jackaby does, however, remind me of another series I started listening to right around the same time: The Paper Magician trilogy, which I briefly reviewed on Goodreads. If you enjoyed those books, you'll likely enjoy this new Sherlockian series and vice versa. Also, Nicola Barber is a fantastic narrator for this series. I've listened to many audiobooks performed by her, and I've never been disappointed. Her accent also lends an air of authenticity to the story.

And what a story it was! I've always been a fan of Sherlockian-type mysteries, and William Ritter's Jackaby is no exception. I just saw that the cover for the sequel was revealed while I was on vacation last week -- that or I missed it recently -- and I might love it even more than this one. Which was why I was finally inspired to write my review for this amazing book.

GIF it to me straight:
Profile Image for Pop Bop.
2,475 reviews101 followers
September 5, 2016
When Is Sherlock Not Sherlock? When He's R. F. Jackaby.

I understand why Sherlock Holmes is so appealing to younger readers. I would suggest that his matter-of-fact approach, occasional shyness and awkwardness, eccentricity, independence, and direct speaking style make him a very accessible character. I also understand why so many authors have created so many different young Sherlock Holmes characters for younger readers. The problem I encounter in many of those books, though, is that the authors work so hard to place young Sherlock into the Holmes canon that they overlook plot, character and action in their focus on making their young Sherlock look like he will grow into the classical adult Sherlock. As a consequence sometimes the books are more like academic or fanboy experiments than entertaining reads. (The lesser efforts are just exercises in name dropping.)

All of this is the long way around to "Jackaby". Here we have a young Sherlock type and a young Watson type, but no effort is made to observe all of the detailed Holmes niceties. Rather, Jackaby is free to develop as a new, different character, with a refreshingly distinct and yet still engaging style.

He's still a bit of a know it all, still a bit supercilious, and still an odd combination of encyclopedic knowledge, eccentricity, and detachment. We're still in 1892, although in New England rather than Baker Street. Oh, and our hero Jackaby has the ability to see spirits and uses his supernatural skills in the course of his investigations. I went in to this expecting that the supernatural angle might be relied upon as a quick and dirty way to resolve mysteries and conclude investigations, but that isn't true. While the mysteries are a bit obvious, the author plays fair enough with the investigative process. And, at least to my mind, all of the book's other considerable merits outweigh any caviling about the detection process.

Of course you need an assistant in a book like this, and in the author's choice on that score we are very fortunate. Abigail Rook is spirited, stubborn, alert, and has the personality, backbone and style to complement and balance the Jackaby character. She is cheeky, observant and no nonsense and makes the perfect foil for Jackaby.

So, well conceived, populated by engaging characters, well written and nicely paced. That makes this book a very attractive addition to the young detective shelf.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
June 15, 2015
This book was pretty good. A young and normal lady named Abigail Rook came to America from Europe escaping her past life and parents. She starts looking for a job and, against the town's prejudice and opinions, starts to work for Mr. R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby is an eccentric man who is used to the unnatural instead of the normal. He is reluctant to hire Abigail but soon relents and they work together to solve the mystery of a serial killer/unknown monster. There is a hint of romance between Abigail and someone else (I can't tell you and spoil it) which I would like to see continue in the rest of the series. There is lots of action, mystery, suspense, complaints/compliments from Jackaby, and lots of other supernatural characters.
Favorite quotes:
“I prefer to look after myself, ma’am, but thank you. I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but some of us have more pressing matters to attend to than practicing our curtsies and turning foolishly sized bonnets into topiaries.”
“I have ceased concerning myself with how things look to others, Abigail Rook. I suggest you do the same. In my experience, others are generally wrong.”
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